Central Park Five co-director Sarah Burns talks racial profiling and media sensationalism

Categories: Film, Q&A

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Korey Wise, one of The Central Park Five.

Especially shocking considering the fact that these things were published by reputable news sources.

Right. That's the thing. Other than (Matias) Reyes' confession (a convicted rapist who confessed to the crime in question) that happened in 2002, all of the evidence was available to them then. It wasn't like new evidence came forward; they tested the DNA back then, and it was negative. And they went ahead (with prosecution) anyway.

The inconsistencies in the statements were clear at the time -- and they were ignored. It makes you start to wonder why it was so easy for people to believe that these kids committed this crime; it always comes back to race. You see the language in the newspapers, and it's the language of lynching. It's the language of the Jim Crowe South.

Pat Buchanan wrote a column in the Post that said that the oldest of the "wolf pack" should be tried, convicted and hung in Central Park? And that the fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds be "horsewhipped" and sent to prison? I mean, this is 1989 in New York City. What (was) going on?

I can see a correlation with the West Memphis Three case and the Central Park Five, in terms of the sensationalism and completely false creation of these ideas of "youth culture."

Absolutely. That absolutely fit in with what was going on in New York at that time -- I think there was a sense that people were sort of afraid. People were afraid, period. Crime rates were much higher at the time then they are now. There was a sense that the source of the city's problems were these minority teenagers. It wasn't exactly true, but that was the sense of things.

The "crack epidemic" was this thing that was coming from the inner city -- (but) drug use goes across race and class, certainly. But there was this perception, and (the case) somehow fit with people's image of what was going on in the city, and it seemed almost -- logical. As horrifying as this crime was, people were saying, "Oh yeah, it figures."


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